Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Comet Gain's Howl Of The Lonely Crowd: A Review

Comet Gain are a bunch of underrated indie rockers from London, roughly.

I've listened to them for a few years but have never been quite so excited about them as I am now and that's due to the new record, Howl Of The Lonely Crowd, already out in the UK but out in the US on 4 October.

The best songs on this record sound like the Go-Betweens and older Primal Scream but, hey, that's a compliment and not an insult.

Let's be honest: the legacy of the Robert Forster-half of The Go-Betweens looms large over this Comet Gain record. It's almost impossible to listen to album opener "Clang Of The Concrete Swans", or hummable and magnificent lead single "An Arcade From The Warm Rain That Falls", and not hear strains of The Go-Betweens' classic Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (1986). The plaintive vocals on "An Arcade From The Warm Rain That Falls" lend a great deal of emotion to the track; frankly, there's more urgency here than on some of those post-reformation Go-Betweens records, if one wants to further that Forster comparison.

The sprightly, plucked guitar line recalls The Pale Fountains with the violin riffs recalling those Go-Betweens again. It's really a fantastic song: immediate, personal, and anthemic all at once.

The vocals of Rachel Evans anchor the Pogues-like "The Weekend Dreams" and there's a touch of old Richard and Linda Thompson here as well, but with a buoyancy and liveliness that the Thompsons sometimes lacked.

The influence of early Stereolab -- namely that Switched On-era stuff -- is present in "Working Circle Explosive!" The song surges forward and carries the legacy of Stereolab progenitors McCarthy into the present. It rocks in a way I've not heard Comet Gain rock before.

"Yoona Baines" lives somewhere between McCarthy and a fuzzed-up Raincoats. Again, Rachel Evans' vocals are the glue here, the edge in her voice lending the cut a bit of menace. The woozy organ links the cut up with American garage rock acts of the 1960s. There's swagger here and I like it a lot.

The Hefner-like "Some Of Us Don't Want To Be Saved" is one of my favorite cuts on Howl Of The Lonely Crowd. The acoustic guitar-lead track has a warmth missing from a lot of American indie rock and I'm reminded as a listener why I tend to prefer Brit bands.

Comet Gain jump genres over the course of the album but they still manage to make music that is sometimes simple and direct. This song is a stunning track, really.

"The atheist's glimpse of heaven..."

"Thee Ecstatic Library" recalls the better bands of the C-86 era. There's the hint of a less manic Woodentops here.

As the lyrics intone, "The music will save us..." and you can't but help and believe that.

Good indie rock seems vital and immediate and this is a great indie rock record.

It's not much of an exaggeration to say that Howl Of The Lonely Crowd is probably the best thing Comet Gain has ever released. Whether that's due to the work of producer Edwyn Collins is up for interpretation.

Whatever the reason, this is a record for both new fans and old ones. It's like the fulfillment of the promise that was always there in the music of Comet Gain but now it's much more direct.

And it's direct without sacrificing the bits and quirks that made Comet Gain a decidedly UK indie act.

I liken the effect of Howl Of The Lonely Crowd to Belle and Sebastian's The Boy With The Arab Strap (1998).

The Scottish group displayed a lot more confidence and coherence on a record that seemed to sum up their strengths and influences.

Howl Of The Lonely Crowd works a similar sort of magic. If you're going to own just one Comet Gain record, it should probably be this one.

The album is out on 4 October 2011 on What's Your Rupture? and you can download it for $9.99 from Amazon here.

In the UK the band are on Fortuna Pop.